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  1. #1
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    What separates Kwan's artistry from Ashley Wagner's?

    Ashley was quoted recently by icenetwork saying
    I spent a lot of time studying Michelle Kwan's programs, and the way she would interact with the audience. Michelle was so beloved from the audience. She skated to perform, not only to win. It's certainly a level I would like to reach -- both for the results and the performing success. That would be the best of both worlds.

    I wish skating had more strong individuals, some champions the audience can latch on to. In the U.S., the skating audience is dwindling now. I'd like to go back to what it was in Michelle Kwan's times. Performance is what people come to watch, beyond technique. Of course, you go for the elements, where you get the points. But the components are also so important.
    http://web.icenetwork.com/news/artic...&vkey=ice_news

    I decided to compare one of Michelle's more exotic early LPs, Taj Mahal, with Ashley's Sampson and Delilah.

    Kwan Taj Mahal 96 SA
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=595XtQCLLsc#t=3m40s

    Wagner Sampson and Delilah 12 TEB
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5enxqwYi7nY#t=28s

    I admire her interest in reviving American skating and trying to pick up Kwan's torch. When I compare the two videos the biggest technical difference I notice is that Kwan seemed to have a few less linking moves to process between jumps. More subjectively, Kwan seemed to string her choreography along with the music, but I feel that Ashley's delivery of the choreography does not flow from one gesture to the next. It also feels like Kwan had greater command of her technique than Ashley Wagner does, though Wagner has developed into a consistent athlete. I think Ashley was right, in order to try to be able to perform, the technical aspects will need to be second nature. It's still early in the season and they're two totally different athletes, but Ashley's mention of Kwan begged a comparison.
    Last edited by Kwantumleap; 11-21-2012 at 03:23 AM.

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    IMO, nothing is natural in Ashley's moves. I have the feeling that she is not as natural as Michelle. It seems Ashley is very professional when it's about choreography. Do you see what I mean ?
    But I love the confidence she shows on the ice, and the hard work she seems to do.

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    I admire Ashley's consistency but I am sorry she's not way close to become the next Michelle Kwan. Like Briancoogaert mentioned, she's not as natural as Michelle and I don't like the fact that she stops often to pose. Being confident made her mention Michelle's name but it's too early to say that I think.

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    There was an interview when Michelle was very young, and I think had just recently started working with Lori Nicol. Michelle said Lori wanted her to think of toothpaste oozing out of the tube while she was skating, to try to be fluid and smooth. I think also that Michelle is just blessed with a natural grace and presence. She was always aware of her body line and position and even though she was choreographed, seemed to have an innate sense of the music, and how her skating interpreted it.
    Ashley has come a long ways in just a couple of years, and has clearly been working very hard, but she doesn't quite have the natural 'it' factor that I saw in Michelle.

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    I saw Ashley's 2012 TEB FD (which I thought was good) and it caused me to think of Michelle more than once during the program. No doubt about it; Michelle inspires Ashley's movements on the ice. I think that's a good thing for ladies skating.

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    I am happy that Ashley has finally found consistency and I do like her skating but she is not nearly as fluid in her movement as Michelle and as quartz said, she doesn't have the presence that Michelle did either.

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    Kween had more fluidity and skated with her heart, Ashley attacks her programs not sure if that classifies as the same artistry

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    for me it's Ashley's pageant faces. It's like she had a Abby Lee teach her stage facial expressions while Michelle's seems more in tune with the character she is portraying. Both have beautiful skating skills. It's funny because Ashley's natural facial expressions are very gorgeous. Her smile when she is done lights up her entire face. I guess it is the difference between feeling the music (Michelle)and hearing the music (Ashley).

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    I saw Wagner's skates a few times and to me she is not at Kwan's level of artistry. The last time I saw her, I said to myself that she seems very professionnal in her approach but her "feeling" is not natural (in comparison with M Kwan, which is a very very ambitious model. Should we compare Wagner with another more "standard" skater, she could be seen as much artistic).
    Maybe she raises the bar too high to the point it could heart our perception of her, because her level is still very high.

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    Ashley has spoken of how much she admires Michelle Kwan, and views her as a role model to emulate. In the above excerpt cited by OP, Ashley also describes how she has "studied Michelle Kwan's programs" and taken note of the way Michelle "interacted with the audience and skated to perform."

    I don't see anywhere Ashley suggesting that she is "exactly" like Michelle. What Ashley aspires to do is to "reach the level" that Michelle attained on the ice in "skating not only to win, but to perform" for the audience. I think that is an exemplary goal for Ashley to set her sights on. I would find it kind of strange and disingenuous if many skaters, especially current U.S. ladies skaters, did not at least admire Michelle and in some way wish to emulate the qualities that she displays both on and off the ice.

    Already Ashley has been showing amazing consistency and wonderful presence on the ice. Ashley is carving out her own unique identity and I'm enjoying watching her growth as a skater. Despite how many fans are now mentioning that they see all kinds of skaters in Ashley, I think Ashley is not exactly like anyone else. She combines athletic grace and technique with power, striking femininity and fierceness. She is learning how to channel her talent, desires and energies into wonderful performances on the ice that connect with the audience.

    When Michelle came on the scene, there had been no one exactly like her before either, even though as her career continued, Michelle's courage, lyrical grace and musical interpretation reminded many of Janet Lynn. During her career, I recall that Michelle spoke about the quality of courage in Janet Lynn that she admired and wished to emulate. In looking back at Michelle's career, I think what has distinguished her, is in fact her extraordinary courage and consistency, and the way her skating sent shivers up my spine and touched my heart and soul. There won't be anyone who will ever do what Michelle did in exactly the same way (nor is there anyone who has wrought exactly what Janet Lynn did on the ice in her era). But there is absolutely nothing wrong with being inspired by the great qualities that both Kwan and Lynn exuded in their own unique and special ways.

    Ashley is quoted in Skating magazine's issue on Champs Camp: "I want to treat my fans like Michelle Kwan. She's amazing. She'll stop on the concourse and sign autographs for every little girl. And she's such a class act. There is no one like her."

    Here's a link to that article, with a great pic of Ashley and Michelle together!

    http://content.yudu.com/A1yj0j/Skati...sources/15.htm


    Quote Originally Posted by Kwantumleap
    ... I feel that Ashley's delivery of the choreography does not flow from one gesture to the next. It also feels like Kwan had greater command of her technique than Ashley Wagner does ...
    Today's skaters under the IJS scoring system with its constant rules changes are required to skate very differently than in previous eras. I think that has some bearing on the way Ashley's programs are structured and how she "delivers her choreography." The challenge for today’s skaters and choreographers is that in order to "grab points," skaters must skate around endlessly on one foot and pack in ridiculous amounts of spins and spin revolutions and make sure they are covering the ice well while emoting with their entire bodies and mastering all manner of difficult jumps. If you manage to do that, you might even be given fairly high component scores whether or not you are very polished in artistic presentation and musicality.

    With that said, I think that Ashley and her choreographer have managed to put together two wonderfully cohesive, polished and entertaining programs, while at the same time ticking off the necessary CoP point-getting boxes. I think Ashley skates a mature and engaging performance with competent execution of difficult jumps, but sure when she's ready, she'll add to her repertoire the panted for, fan-demanded, ISU-required 3/3 and 2x/3t! As well, I think Ashley is growing in her artistic expression and performing capabilities, just as she said she is trying to further develop in those areas. Ashley has also pointed out in the recent USA Today article linked in the GSD thread, that Mr. Nicks has “changed my technique a bit but not a ton.” And she also said that the most important aspect Mr. Nicks has helped her improve is her “mental” preparation.

    Comparisons of all kinds are to be expected in discussions about figure skating. So thanks for starting this thread and expressing your viewpoints, Kwantumleap. I respect your thoughts and those of others. Pardon my lengthy thesis.

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    One thing I am surprised at are all the comments about Michelle being so natural. I dont think Michelle was a natural artist like Janet Lynn or Oksana Baiul. She made a concscious effort to work extremely hard at improving her artistry and had the master of such at the time (Lori Nichol) to guide her. It was never her artistry people first noticed about her, it was consistent jumps, strong basics, and strong work ethic. Nobody looked at 14 year old Michelle who was already landing 6 or 7 triples per program, and one of the top skaters in the World and said "wow what an exquisite young artist we have before us here." Most 15 year olds would never work in detail so much on their artistry, but Kwan was already so good technically at a young age that she was able to have an experience like the 95 Worlds, and that made her determined to perfect every detail of her artistry so young, and doing that so young is why she became such an artistic skater IMO.
    Last edited by judgejudy27; 11-21-2012 at 06:42 PM.

  12. #12
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    Ashley has a long way to go to reach Michelle like status on the artistry scale but just the fact she is aiming that high... I like it. I have always like Ashley since 2008 but she is finally a complete skater. Although I hope for the Olympic season she stretches a little more music wise. If she skates to Romeo & Juliet and Romanza, I will be disappointed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by judgejudy27 View Post
    One thing I am surprised at are all the comments about Michelle being so natural. I dont think Michelle was a natural artist like Janet Lynn or Oksana Baiul. She made a concscious effort to work extremely hard at improving her artistry and had the master of such at the time (Lori Nichol) to guide her. It was never her artistry people first noticed about her, it was consistent jumps, strong basics, and strong work ethic. Nobody looked at 14 year old Michelle who was already landing 6 or 7 triples per program, and one of the top skaters in the World and said "wow what an exquisite young artist we have before us here." Most 15 year olds would never work in detail so much on their artistry, but Kwan was already so good technically at a young age that she was able to have an experience like the 95 Worlds, and that made her determined to perfect every detail of her artistry so young, and doing that so young is why she became such an artistic skater IMO.
    I disagree. You cannot just decide to work on your artistry one off season and come back skating like this (below) especially at 15 years old due to only "hard work". Alongside her hard work, there is a natural ability. Otherwise, what is everyone else's excuse? not working hard enough?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1imuQWeIi4Q

    Ashley has wonderful command of the ice, don't get me wrong but IMO Michelle had a gift when it came to performing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGirlCanSkate View Post
    for me it's Ashley's pageant faces. It's like she had a Abby Lee teach her stage facial expressions while Michelle's seems more in tune with the character she is portraying. Both have beautiful skating skills. It's funny because Ashley's natural facial expressions are very gorgeous. Her smile when she is done lights up her entire face. I guess it is the difference between feeling the music (Michelle)and hearing the music (Ashley).
    This.

    Ashley relies on choreographed facial expressions - instead of movement - to convey emotion. These expressions often come across as artificial and overdone, and I wish there were more quiet moments in her programs. I think Michelle's program linked by UGG is an excellent example of a case where a skater could have relied on O-faces and dramatic scowling, a la Ashley, but didn't.

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    Ashley reminisces of Kwan in attack, consistency, and poise... The huge difference as stated by other members is that Michelle felt every ounce of the music, I only get bried hints of that from Ashley although I think that's to come with time. As also stated, Michelle was always fluid in movement and always aware of her body lines, Ashley is fluid most of the time but there are many moments when you see the rigidity creep in. If you notice, every time Ashley has to improvise a brief part of choreography because she's tired/behind in the music etc. she looks rigid with 0 awareness of body line. (See her programs early last season where she was too tired to do the toe steps in her black swan footwork - she would do an ugly bendy thing). She doesn't have the innate ability to improvise or create something beautiful on the spot; something a skater must be able to do in order to be fluid at all times.

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    Poor Ashley. Let Ashley be Ashley and Michelle be Michelle. Two skaters brought up and trained under different rules. I hope Ashley will achieve stardom like Michelle as I think only a lady star may be able to revive figure skating in the USA. Having said that, let's be realistic. It's easier to be multiple champions then rather than now. Good luck to Ashley. I am sure with her determination and hard work, she'll get there. Talent alone is not enough.
    Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them. – Publilius Syrus

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    Kwan retired because she knew that skaters like Wagner were coming up. At least Lysacek and Plushenko are trying comebacks to compete against the new kids. But Kwan is petrified and knows that all the current female amateurs have a natural artistry that far surpasses hers.



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    Let's face it: there is a wide gap between Michelle's artistry and Ashley's. But that's just because Michelle's artistry (including her performance skills) are so far above anyone else's. I commend Ashley for aspiring to such a high standard. Who was it--Robert Browning, maybe--who said one's reach should exceed one's grasp? It has certainly done wonders for her skating. She is really the only ladies skater right now who is even attempting to sell her program to the audience like Michelle did. I wish more skaters would take their inspiration from the Kween.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PeterG View Post
    Kwan retired because she knew that skaters like Wagner were coming up. At least Lysacek and Plushenko are trying comebacks to compete against the new kids. But Kwan is petrified and knows that all the current female amateurs have a natural artistry that far surpasses hers.



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    I have a hard time seeing Ashley evolve into a style similar to Michelle's without losing what makes Ashley "Ashley".

    At her best, Michelle made me feel like she was embracing her programs, allowing her to feel the nuances of the music and engage the audience by infusing and melding her emotions into her movements with a sense of calmness and security.

    I always get the sense that rather than embracing her programs, Ashley is powering her way through them with attack and determination. Those aren't necessarily bad or inferior qualities; I just think Ashley and Michelle have two very distinct styles - Ashley's being more bold, and Michelle's more gentle.

    That being said, I don't think it's futile for Ashley to learn from Michelle. As evidenced by her last few performances of Black Swan, Ashley can really sell a program and bring excitement to it. I think Ashley's aggressiveness to her skating and movement is what makes her seem affected during pieces like the slow aria section in the middle of her Samson et Delilah. However, I could easily see Ashley selling the heck out of something passionate and fiery like Michelle's footwork sequence during the ending of Tosca.
    Last edited by CantALoop; 11-21-2012 at 11:38 PM.

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